About almost six years ago, after my discontent over the availability of any historic East Brunswick content available on any online platform, I wanted to do the internet (and the community) a favor by sharing some of this content myself. I have had this fascination for local history since I was in elementary school. I would look up any old EB content available online, which was hardly anything at the time. I could not wait any longer for someone else to do something. If nobody else was going to do anything, then I would.
It was not very much at the time, as I started out with about 20 or so photographs that I got from the East Brunswick Public Library back in late 2011 that I put together in what become the “Vintage East Brunswick” album. By that time, the library was lessening with their historic EB reference material as they were moving along with the digital age. However, once they got rid of the microfilms, which contained some historic content that could not be viewed elsewhere (to my knowledge), that only accelerated my push to save even more old EB photos than ever so that if this happens to any other library, I will have at least saved the stuff I wanted to save.
It was not until around June 2014 that I began to peruse through the microfilms at Alexander Library. For the nearly three years, I spent many hours browsing through every microfilm of every newspaper that closely covered East Brunswick from back in the day. The Sentinels (at least the ones between 1950 and 1982) took me over a year to go through, while about over 40 years of the Home News (up until the early 1990s) took me nearly two years. It was a long process of carefully looking for any photos that were taken in East Brunswick, and I had no search bar to make it easier for myself.
Since these were not online at the time, I basically had to search the old fashioned way, by going through page by page trying to find any interesting historic EB photographs to save. Within that nearly six-year span, I collected over 5000 historic photos of East Brunswick taken between the late 1940s and early 1990s. The whole goal of this was to provide some sort of online outlet for the people (especially those that live too far to view the actual source material) to see East Brunswick transform from a rural to suburban township.
It was just a couple months ago that I was just getting started on going through Home News newspapers from early 1990s, when just recently, to my surprise, Newspapers.com was beginning the process of digitizing the Home News to be made available online, officially. This is exactly what I wanted from the very beginning, an official online outlet of some kind where people from anywhere could see the historic EB content from all years, and not just photographs. The goal for myself was to find and save any historic EB photos that I felt was worth saving and put them out there so that people could view them. The recent digitalization of the Home News essentially accelerated that process to which by now, my goal has been (for the most part) fulfilled.
Granted, you do have to pay to see this stuff, but it is better than nothing. As a result of this, my goal of getting everything out there that I wanted people to see has finally been fulfilled. To think how far we have come since I first started back in late 2011. In the beginning, there was practically nothing available in terms of any historic EB content. Today, we have the EBTV Archive page on their On Demand site, and the nearly entire digitalization of the Home News that just been provided to us.
You might be wondering if I felt I have wasted my time spending all those hours at the Alexander Library to go through newspapers that are now mostly available online. To answer that I say: No. I just know now where to look if ever want repost any photos I have already shared that did not come out so well when I originally got these through microfilm. My only regret is that I wish that the stuff I shared came into any good official use that people could use as reference material, and even now, I still do not feel that any of what I shared came into any real official good use, but I am happy with the admiration I have gotten from so many whose days are made whenever they see these photographs that I share. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and clearly, it applies to these photos. I am always delighted to see the comments you have to share.
At this point, my days spending hours at the Alexander Library are winding down. I still got many more photos to share within the groups, but finding anymore photos to save are becoming far and fewer, as pretty soon, I will have completed going through Home News newspapers up until the end of the 20th Century, and then, there will not be much more to find (unless I somehow get access to the Sentinel between 1983 and 2000).
This has been one long and windy road, and as I get ready for the real world (wherever that may be), I am proud to have done something that nobody asked me to do. I did this because I cared, and I wanted to share findings with all of you. All of my life, I wanted to do something that would make an impact on the community because I felt that living here most of my life, I deserved to give something in return, something that could make a positive influence onto others, and I found it.
There have been a lot of things in life I tried to achieve, but I must say, this have been my most proud achievement by far because of every one of you who care enough to respond to my postings. My work is not done, there is still plenty more to find, and I hope to share almost every one of them.
Ethan Reiss is the Editor/Archivist for the Facebook page You Know You're from East Brunswick if ...
Disclaimer: Ethan Reiss has incorrectly stated that "I wish that the stuff I shared came into any good official use that people could use as reference material," as TAPinto East Brunswick regularly uses his postings to provide context for contemporary events and to document the change to the EB landscape, especially with regard to local businesses and the East Brunswick Public Schools.